Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Dulce Bellum Inexpertis

Freelance journalist Steven Sotloff
The image of terrified freelance journalist Steven J. Sotloff in an orange jumpsuit kneeling before a member of the extremist Jihadist group ISIS wearing a black hood and wielding a knife has haunted me all day.

Just last week his mother Shirley publicly pleaded to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed "caliph" of ISIS, to free her son after ISIS beheaded James Foley and threatened the same fate for Sotloff.

We all know the sad result of her appeal for her son's life.

I have no desire to see the video. There is no shred of morbid curiosity that compels me to watch it. I know I am not alone in saying that it's enough for me to know the end result.

Like many others around the globe I worry for the three other Americans and two British citizens ISIS claims to be holding.

By now the world realizes these bloodthirsty psychopaths are reveling in their capacity to terrify and inflict suffering on the innocent. Gleefully seizing their fifteen minutes of fame by committing horrifying acts of butchery in front of video cameras then posting it on the Internet.   

What truly scares me though is the slow build of the sound of the drums of war being beaten by reactionaries in Washington. Predictably, a who's who of the Republican right are eagerly stepping forward to use this tragedy not to form a broad policy consensus or pull together as a nation to confront this rising threat in the middle east; but to bash President Obama.

When I hear intellectual light-weights like Texas Governor Rick Perry or Senator Ted Cruz popping off cheap shots at the President, I'm too offended to laugh. Offended at the idea that they'd use the horrific death of a journalist at the hands of ultra violent Islamic extremists to strut around like roosters chiding the President for being "weak."

The same President who green-lit the mission to take out Bin Laden? The same president who's ordered thousands of drone strikes across Africa and the middle east to take out terrorist targets? The same President who's ordered classified special forces operations we won't ever here about?

Cruz publicly preened his foreign policy feathers a few days ago when he offered the insightful suggestion that America "ought to bomb them (ISIS) back to the stone age." How clever. Cruz must have missed the fact that the President has already ordered hundreds of air sorties against ISIS targets.

Real foreign policy experts, career diplomats and politicians with actual foreign policy cred recognize Cruz's swaggering as regurgitated hot air dredged up from the 20th century.

ISIS personnel have positioned themselves deep inside Syria, where the US has limited intelligence reach. The idea that we're just going to start bombing Syria haphazardly as a means to vent our frustration over horrific terrorist acts reveals what a foreign policy novice Cruz is.

But the scary part is a lot of people think like him. Never mind that by bombing ISIS targets in Syria we'd basically be aligning ourselves with Bashar al-Assad; the Syrian leader who has gassed and shelled his own citizens "back to the stone age" to stem the tide of the Arab Spring from blossoming in his country.

Never mind that we'd be embedding ourselves in a sectarian cross-border civil war with no coherent long-term strategy. No guys like Ted Cruz and Rick Perry are all ready to "put boots on the ground" and risk American lives to get their "war on."

I never knew James Foley or Steven Sotloff. But I know both of them spent years covering the human cost of war and conflict in the middle east. Sotloff spoke Arabic and respected Islamic culture, can you imagine that he would want his death to be some kind of trigger to bring more death and destruction to a middle east that's been embroiled in war for decades?

But such considerations don't concern Cruz or Perry. While the President works to carefully calculate a strategic response based on sound diplomacy, intelligence and coordinated action with other nations; Cruz and Perry are all bluster and big talk. They're all ready to "git 'er done."

I listen to Cruz and Perry and I'm reminded of the quote from Erasmus: "Dulce bellum inexpertis."

Was is sweet to those who have no experience of it.


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